It’s a fact of life that our social circles narrow as we get older.
Once the voracious energy of our twenties wears off, we stop accruing pals at every turn (no matter how flaky or dubious these ‘friendships’ really are).
And this process unfurls sooner than we might imagine. According to research published last year, our social lives start falling off a cliff from tender age of 25.
Life gets in the way; careers, partners, babies. All the boring stuff.
And before you think that could never be you, consider the amount of times you’ve fobbed off a mate for a night on the sofa with Netflix. It happens.
This shredding of pals is not a universally bad thing, either. They say a friend is there for a season, a reason or life.
The season, reason element really find its forte when we’re young and full of pep. We’ll make friends with anyone during the first week of Uni, but as we mature, we scrutinise the bonds that tie us together.
Relationships where we have nothing in common fall away into the ether and we’re left with the ones that count. The real buddies, those who stand the test of time.
But, like any comfort blanket, this scenario can become suffocating.
By the time we hit our thirties, we see the same narrow circle of people over and again – reassured by the fact that we have a full archive of shared experiences to draw upon.
There’s no surprises, no awkwardness, no effort. And no new faces.
Of course, we might meet someone on Tinder but a few flirtatious last-night WhatsApps hardly counts as meaningful. Ditto, a friend of a friend who we spend one night chatting to at a dinner party and never see again.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the art of meeting new people – truly new, exciting people from completely different walks of life who we spend proper time talking to; who have their own perspectives and challenge our own.
And the worst thing is, we don’t even know what we’re missing.
Human nature means most of us won’t actively go out and seek new people – we’re far too lazy and reticent to do that – but when we chance across them and have a brilliant chat, the experience is an eye-opener. It fires us up in a way that’s quite unique.
This effect is one of the reasons why travelling in a group of like-minded people with Flash Pack works so well.
Our carefully curated groups get to hang out with one another in a setting that is totally removed from their day-to-day life. A beach on Sri Lanka, say, or a street-side cafe in Bogotá.
Read more: Is a group tour right for you? Take our quiz
This isn’t a squad in the Taylor Swift sense of the word. There’s no cliques, no expectation and no pressure. Some people go onto become firm friends, others merely enjoy spending the time they have together.
But the scene is ripe for conversations that you can’t predict, whether that’s your feelings on the latest season of Real Housewives or DNM ripostes about careers, dreams and life goals.
It’s a setting that naturally swings your “meeting new people” muscle into play, after years of rustiness and neglect.
“It can be hard to meet new people when you are ensconced in your daily routine in London. Everyone is so busy and exhausted,” says Flashpacker Jenni, 30 (below right).
“I was amazed at how easy it was to chat to people on my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. It was really refreshing to meet new faces in a completely different environment – be it the crazy streets of Hanoi or watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat.”
Read more: Peruse our Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary
The experience meant Jenni got back into habit of talking to strangers; a much less daunting process than she anticipated; “It felt brilliant to break out of my comfort zone,” she says.
Fellow Flashpacker Nicola, 35, agrees.
“After quitting my job, it was so nice to escape to Morocco and meet completely new people that I wouldn’t normally meet,” she says. “It took me beyond the people I’d grown up with and worked with.”
She particularly welcomed the casual nature of the set-up: “There’s no strings attached with friendships when travelling, we’re all there to have an adventure but there’s no pressure to be best buddies.”
Read more: Plan your trip to Morocco now
While some friends are best left in our twenties, perhaps it’s time to re-invent that knack we once had for incidental chats with strangers.
A long-eroded habit, it might bring you more joy, confidence and perspective than you ever thought possible. Just give it a whirl and see….
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock and Jenni Shaw